By Chidi Opara
Owerri – The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), says it is partnering with communities in Imo to ensure eradication of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the state.
Mr Benjamin Mbakwem, the UNICEF FGM Consultant for Imo and Ebonyi States, disclosed this at a Forum on “Accelerating the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation in Umuguma, Owerri West Headquarters on Thursday.
Mbakwem stressed the importance of collaboration by all stakeholders in addressing the FGM, which he said translated to violation of the human rights of girls and women.
He said it was also a form of gender-based violence.
“FGM is a cultural practice with devastating medical, social, emotional, legal and economic repercussions for young girls and women,” he said.
The state Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Vitus Ekeocha, stressed the importance of involving members of the communities in the state to fight the practice.
According to him, FGM poses psychological risk, such as post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder and depression.
The director said that UNICEF was partnering with Imo government and other stakeholders in implementing the programme in selected councils of the state such as Oguta, Ohaji/Egbema, Ikeduru, Ngor-Okpala and Ehime Mbano.
He said three councils, Ihitte Uboma, Ehime Mbano and Owerri West have been visited and the awareness to stop the practice had been created.
Ekeocha called on leaders of communities to take the message to the people to ensure the success of the programme.
The traditional ruler of Irette Autonomous Community, Eze Ethelbert Ekwelibe, expressed appreciation on the awareness created on FGM.
He told NAN that his community never practised female mutilation and promised to take the message home.
He called on other traditional rulers in the various communities and stakeholders to spread the message to end the “old harmful” practice’’.
Mrs Beatrice Ahuokpeme, Woman Leader in Avu Autonomous Community, Owerri West, described the programme by UNICEF as worthwhile.
She said the practice of FGM should be abolished because its numerious consequences.
“I will take the message around; I believe the practice will be eradicated. The theory that uncircumcised women could be promiscuous is not true,” she said.
Mr Vitalis Ekwen, legal practitioner, Coordinator Child Rights Advocacy and Protection, called for the full implementation of the law against female genital mutilation because it was moribund.
He promised to take up any report brought to his office on any culprit.
“People should appreciate the benefit of not cutting the female organ and stop FGM.
“The Child’s Right Law of Imo State 2004, Section 25, No. 6, an adoption of the Child’s Right Act protects the girl child and women from such practice,” he said.(